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Some thoughts on Keatts and treats

It’s Tournament Weekend and the ACC will crown its tourney champ tonight. I may be old-school, but I miss it being played on Sunday afternoons (a good excuse to slip out of church early!). I realize it’s better for the teams involved to get an extra day of rest as they watch the Selection Show and coaches get more time to prep, but Sundays were made for “THE Game”.

I also miss the fact that the tournament has gone north of the Mason-Dixon Line for the first time (last year in D.C. and in ’05 don’t count!). Few folks beyond the die-hards probably don’t remember that it was played for the first 13 years of its existence in Raleigh. Then, except for two runs at the old pro basketball Washington Bullets’ home (the Capital Center in Landover, MD), for the next 16 years it never left the state of North Carolina. Finally, other than Virginia’s Bicentennial year (1976) title, the trophy never left the state of North Carolina, split amongst the Big-Four schools.

Why’d I broach this? Because after his team lost in the tournament Wednesday, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim suggested the event never return to Greensboro (sorry, Jim, it returns in 2020; assuming North Carolina’s politicians get the HB2 ‘bathroom bill’ issue settled – Charlotte’s hosting in 2019 is also threatened). Yes, the big cities are the more fertile recruiting ground for the top college players these days, but New York no more rules the roost than, say, Birmingham or Dallas.

Naturally, the ‘Green City’ shot back, probably the best comment came from Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who chided the Orange coach for not sticking around long enough to appreciate the city. In 2014 they lost to NC State in the first round, and in 2015 they didn’t even show up due to a self-imposed post-season ban.

Maybe Mayor Vaughan ought to send Big Jim a ticket to April’s SpringFest, along with a two-year subscription to ‘Our State’ magazine.

My other thought this week is on the NC State basketball coaching search. After Mark Gottfried bowed out in a first-round loss to Clemson (I was rooting for the ‘Pack to win it all – just to see what the school would do then), speculation continues on his successor.

While the early conjecture was on alum favorite Archie Miller of Dayton, Miller may stay pat now that Thad Matta is remaining at Ohio State because Miller has an Urban Meyer complex: he calls Ohio State his ‘dream job’.

That brings me to UNC-Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts. I was waaay long gone from the Port City when Keatts, a former Louisville assistant and coach at basketball-pipeline Hargrave Military Academy, arrived. But, Keatts was a top assistant for Pitino at Louisville and has turned UNCW from a bottom feeder into a conference powerhouse that just celebrated its second Colonial Athletic Association championship, posting the most wins (28) in school history.

But don’t start thinking that the ‘Pack is just going to take Keatts on face value. He is a nice option to dangle in front of some other candidates (like Will Wade of VCU), and while his Seahawk teams’ defensive prowess has been questioned, if he gets to Raleigh he’ll be going up against Duke and UNC, where you better defend, and do it well!

The Lynchburg native, who played at Ferrum in the early 90’s – where he saw Bob Burke’s Chowan teams a couple of times – has recruiting prowess and connections to North Carolina and the Southeast to help him significantly. More importantly, Keatts has won everywhere he’s gone, doesn’t appear to have ‘baggage’, his players love and respect him, and they graduate.

Besides, Roy and Coach-K are probably less than five years from hanging up their whistles, and Vinnie Del Negro probably still wants a pro job.

 

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.